“I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a mole on my check.” My hand self consciously drifted up to my face, my middle finger hovering over the offending mark. I don’t remember why I brought it up, don’t remember where we were or exactly when it was. But I was talking to my boyfriend and we’d been together for probably more than a year, which is forever to a kid in college. It was the mid 90s and I don’t remember any specifics from the conversation except for what he said in return. “Oh, I noticed the first time I met you. And then I had to consider if I wanted to date you or not.” Ok, so I remember something else. I remember the shock of feeling like I’d been slapped, the burning and swelling in the back of my throat as I tried not to cry, the emptiness in the pit of my stomach, the worthlessness.
He confirmed my fears-I was a charity case, I was lucky when someone decided to look past my monstrous physicality to date me. All very hyperbolic, but I wasn’t just an insecure young woman, I was careening towards a mental breakdown and diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.
I hate the mole. I’ve hated it for a really long time.
We had to be back from our trip by the 28th because I had my yearly appointment with the dermatologist, or as I referred to it on Facebook my annual step-on-a-paper-naked-so-the-doc-can-shine-a-light-all-over-my-body humiliation/skin cancer screening. I was talking to my Mom about it a few weeks ago and she reminded me to ask them if the mole on my cheek was safe. I told her I asked every single year because I hate it so much, hoping that they’d tell me it must come off. But every time I am told that it is perfectly benign, that I’ll never have to have it removed. My hand drifted up to my face to worry the mole again, it’s a well ingrained response at this point. As I touched it myself I confided to her that when T and I chat he loves to reach over and play with it. I told her how awful it makes me feel and how I wish he’d stop.
“Well, find out how much it costs to get it removed.” she said.
I jumped right down her throat. Accused her of hating it so much that she wanted it gone, which was completely unfair. She explained that certainly wasn’t the case, but it was clear that I had a pretty big issue with it and if it would make me happy to get rid of it we could make that happen. She was being extremely decent, and not just about this. She was awesome the whole time Z was gone.
I told Z about the conversation when we facetimed that night-he was still in Japan. Of course he knows the history with the mole. I was shocked by his response. “No. NO! You cannot remove the mole. It is part of you. You can’t do it. I love it because it is part of your face.”
We work really hard not to say, “No.” to each other. We talk things out, we respect each others personal space. He was angry and I wasn’t sure why.
At the appointment on Friday I asked the question anyway. And surprisingly it’s under $200 to get it removed. I casually reported that news to Z when I came home. His was just as upset with the idea as he was the first time I brought it up. After a few hours I was able to tell him why his reaction hurt me. It was my body, my face. If I wanted to change it it was my choice. I wanted his opinion, I respected his thoughts, but ultimately it is up to me.
The problem is that anything having to do with my physicality is still fraught between the two of us. We have worked through so much in our relationship, but the self image stuff was so damaging to both of us it has sort of been easier to ignore. During my breakdown I used to think when anyone paid me a compliment that they were actually making fun of me. They pitied me, they thought I was stupid, and if they took the time to say something nice they were actively being cruel. I was very sick. I mean, obviously. Sick and narcissistic. Yup, even if you hate yourself you can be a narcissist if you believe that people are spending all their time thinking about you.
We don’t talk about how I look. Z doesn’t even want to offer a suggestion on what color nail polish I should get for a pedicure. He rarely tells me I look nice. Because he doesn’t want to have a fight about how I think he is making fun of me. Now, I’m nowhere near as bad off as I used to be, but I still don’t have self-confidence. I still look in the mirror and see an ogre. If he were to compliment me I surely wouldn’t say, “Thank you,” rather I would deflect. These are all problems, obviously there is a reason I’m still in therapy. All I can say is it’s on the list and I will be working on it.
So given our rather messy history it is even stranger that he would object so strongly to my desire to remove the mole. And when we talked he calmed down and told me of course it was my body and my decision. But he explained that when he was saying, “No” what he was telling me was he loves me exactly as I am and he doesn’t want me to change anything. He was telling me that he accepts me. He was telling me that my perceived imperfections aren’t necessarily imperfections to everyone. He was telling me he didn’t want that old boyfriend’s reaction that has festered in my head for more than 15 years to cause me to change who I am.
What a fucking tremendous gift. How lucky am I to have a husband who knows all of my physical and emotional imperfections and loves me anyway? How amazing is it that I’ve gotten so much better that I believe him when he says these things to me? Perhaps I should be focusing on that shit, rather than a stupid mole. A task that would be made much easier if T would keep his greasy little paws off of it…
Here it is in all its unfiltered glory. Honestly, I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do.
The boy and I got matching Star Wars Tattoos. We are with the Rebel Alliance in case you were wondering.
My first Instagram video. Also featuring my mole. Z and our friend C were planning the treehouse they will be building in our yard this summer. I’m looking on. We’re all drinking. It’s raining. Normal summer night at our house. Man, we love that porch.